Brazilian Journal of Pain
Brazilian Journal of Pain
Review Article

Acute pain in the critically ill patient: revisiting the literature

Dor aguda no paciente crítico: revisitando a literatura

Jose Mauro Vieira Junior; Laura Herranz Prinz

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: According to the redefinition, acute pain is a somatic experience, with individual perception of physical or existential threat, comprising affective, cognitive and behavioral components. In critically ill patients, pain is a frequent and poorly controlled symptom, causing worse outcomes. The objective of this study was to explore the topic of acute pain in critically ill adult patients, focusing on some aspects of pathophysiology, in addition to updates regarding diagnosis, multimodal therapy and discussion of its control as a marker of good care practice.

CONTENTS: A search strategy was performed with the descriptors previously defined in the Pubmed and Cochrane portals, in the period from 2011 to 2021, without a language restriction filter. Acute pain represents a physiological response to a nociceptive stimulus, with high relevance due to its ability to activate complex pathways (inflammatory, hormonal and immune), with systemic repercussions. Pain assessment is often performed using recognized scales, but with limited validation in patients with traumatic brain injury, burns and patients with severe delirium and/or dementia. Studies considering these patients point to the use of new technologies in an attempt to target this diagnosis, such as bedside pupillometry and the use of platforms capable of integrating multiparametric measurements. Regarding therapy, the concept of analgosedation, aiming at prioritizing analgesia in critically ill patients, presents an approach capable of improving clinical outcomes. In addition, there is a preference for multimodal therapy as a good medical practice through the association of different drugs with different mechanisms of no-ciceptive blockade as a strategy to achieve pain control and facilitate the reduction of opioid consumption.

CONCLUSION: Due to its systemic effects and prevalence, acute pain is still a relevant problem in intensive care units. New diagnostic methods are being marketed with the aim of targeting this evaluation in complex patients. The approach to acute pain should prioritize the use of multimodal techniques, which present more consistent clinical responses, in addition to reducing the consumption of opioids. The existence of multidisciplinary teams specialized in pain control in the hospital environment is able to assist in difficult cases and help in quality audits.


Acute pain, Critical care, Analgesia, Opioids analgesics, Pain management, Quality of health care


JUSTIFICATIVA E OBJETIVOS: Conforme redefinição, a dor aguda é uma experiência somática, com percepção individual de ameaça física ou existencial, compreendendo componentes afetivos, cognitivos e comportamentais. Em pacientes críticos, a dor representa um sintoma frequente e mal controlado, ocasionando piores desfechos. O objetivo deste estudo foi explorar a temática da dor aguda nos pacientes críticos adultos, com enfoque em alguns aspectos de fisiopatologia, além de atualizações em relação a diagnóstico, terapêutica multimodal e discussão de seu controle como um marcador de boa prática assistencial.

CONTEÚDO: Foi realizada estratégia de busca com os descritores previamente definidos nos portais Pubmed e Cochrane, no período de 2011 a 2021, sem filtro de restrição para idioma. A dor aguda representa uma resposta fisiológica a um estímulo nociceptivo, tendo alta relevância por sua capacidade de ativar vias complexas (inflamatórias, hormonais e imunes), com repercussões sistêmicas. A avaliação da dor é frequentemente realizada através de escalas reconhecidas, porém com validação limitada em pacientes com trauma cranioencefálico, queimados e portadores de delirium e/ou demência acentuados. Os estudos considerando esses pacientes apontam para o uso de novas tecnologias na tentativa de objetivar esse diagnóstico, como a pupilometria à beira leito e o uso de plataformas capazes de integrar medidas multiparamétricas. Em relação à terapêutica, o conceito de analgosedação, objetivando priorização de analgesia nos pacientes críticos, apresenta abordagem capaz de melhorar desfechos clínicos. Além disso, há preferência da terapêutica multimodal como boa prática médica através da associação de diferentes fármacos com diversos mecanismos de bloqueio nociceptivo como estratégia para alcançar controle álgico e facilitar a redução do consumo de opioides.

CONCLUSÃO: Por seus efeitos sistêmicos e sua prevalência, a dor aguda ainda é problemática relevante nas unidades de terapia intensiva. Novos métodos diagnósticos estão sendo comercializados com a proposta de objetivar essa avaliação em pacientes complexos. A abordagem da dor aguda deve priorizar o emprego de técnicas multimodais, que apresentam respostas clínicas mais consistentes, além de redução no consumo de opioides. A existência de equipes multidisciplinares especializadas no controle da dor no ambiente hospitalar é capaz de auxiliar em casos difíceis e ajudar nas auditorias de qualidade.


Analgesia, Cuidados críticos, Dor aguda, Manejo da dor, Qualidade da assistência à saúde


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